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Press Release

USDA Increases Funding for Partnerships to Safeguard, Restore Wetland Ecosystems

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A blue wing teal lands in a wetland

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $20 million in fiscal 2023 to help conservation partners nationwide protect and restore critical wetlands through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $20 million in fiscal 2023 to help conservation partners nationwide protect and restore critical wetlands through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is prioritizing proposals that support efforts to mitigate climate change by restoring wetlands while also prioritizing assistance to underserved communities. Last year, NRCS funded $11 million in partnerships. Proposals from partners are due Sept. 23, 2022.

“Restoring and protecting wetlands can improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and help address climate change. Partnerships are absolutely essential to this work,” said Mike Sullivan, NRCS State Conservationist in Arkansas. “Our partners can help connect us with historically underserved communities here in Arkansas and across the country, and these projects can also expand equity in conservation opportunities.”

Restored wetlands help to improve water quality downstream, enhance wildlife habitat, reduce impacts from flooding and provide recreational benefits. The most sought-after lands for the WREP program are referred to as “marginal,” meaning they do not produce to their full capacity due to repeat flooding or standing water. Removing marginal lands from production can provide economic benefits for agricultural landowners while also restoring the wetlands to accomplish their full functions and values.

Through WREP projects, eligible conservation partners protect, restore and enhance high-priority wetlands on agricultural lands. WREP enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working agricultural landscapes, providing meaningful benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program and to the communities where the wetlands exist.

WREP will continue to prioritize enrollment of historically underserved landowners in its ranking of proposals. This includes proposals that:

  • Target places with historically underserved producers;
  • Focus outreach to historically underserved producers;
  • Provide assistance with application materials and helping resolve heirs’ property and title issues.

Partners target outreach and enrollment priorities supported by NRCS, including places impacted by natural disasters. Eligible partners include Tribes, state and local governments and non-government organizations. WREP partners are required to contribute a financial or technical assistance fund match.

This WREP funding is for fiscal year 2023, which begins on Oct. 1, 2022.

How to Apply

Partners interested in applying should contact their NRCS state office for more information. Proposals are due by Sept. 23, 2022.

Partners looking to learn more about opportunities for WREP funding for fiscal year 2023 are encouraged to attend the virtual WREP workshop on Aug. 17, 2022, at 1 p.m. Eastern. Contact Lisa McCauley for the login information. The webinar will be recorded and available for any partners unable to attend.

More Information

Two Arkansas projects received funding last year. They are:

  • The Tri-State partnership, led by the Nature Conservancy, which seeks to enroll an additional 1,500 acres of wetlands as part of a multi-year effort in the project area. A minimum of 750 acres (50%) will be specifically targeted for enrollment of historically underserved landowners. This project focuses on restoration of forested wetlands within priority portions of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
  • The Lower Batture, led by the Mississippi River Trust, seeks to enroll 2,000 acres. A minimum of 250 acres (approximately 12.5%) will be specifically targeted for historically underserved landowner enrollment. This additional funding will expand the original project area along the lower Mississippi River to continue more sustainable land and water management in the river’s active floodplain and nearby flood-prone lands in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

WREP is part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which is a Farm Bill conservation program. Through WREP, states, local units of government, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.

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